Swinging Modern Sounds #90: Haikus for Pets


The newly released album by Advance Base, the nom de plume of Owen Ashworth (who was formerly known as Casiotone for the Painfully Alone), is a tremendous thing of beauty called Animal Companionship (Orindal Records), all songs about pets, or songs that feature pets, in a field of inquiry otherwise concerned with the devastation of the human animals. Where Ashworth’s earlier albums really leaned into the consumer electronics, lots of Animal Companionship is mostly about electric piano. You can almost hear fingers striking the keys now and then. This approach to arranging puts the minimalism back in minimalism, an approach to music almost completely unexplored these days.

The desolation of the human animals here is as complete as on other albums by Owen Ashworth, but lo and behold the companionship of the non-human animals somehow effects a tiny ladling in of hope that has perhaps been less frequently present on earlier recordings, and which results both in a greater poignancy, and some giddy joy, perhaps an erroneous joy, given the circumstances of these narratives, but one that is totally welcome nonetheless.

I have written in this space about Owen Ashworth before, and so in a state of delight about the songs I tried to conceive of a new way to talk about Ashworth’s new emotional palette on Animal Companionship, and I thought it might be fun to get him to write some haikus about the pets in his own life. (Ashworth’s songs are very often written for characters, not from his own life, and so these haikus do not, in fact, duplicate much material on the recording.)

Ashworth’s haikus are below, followed by an equal number of haikus by me, about the pets in my life, and, finally, one by my daughter, about the first pet she lost. If you like Owen’s haikus, and even if you don’t, you’ll really love his album. It might even cause you to think anew about the animals in your life.


By Owen Ashworth


Lucy was my dog
A big golden retriever
A real hell raiser


There were more fishes
Than I can remember now
Black betas mostly


First of many cats
Penny was a calico
I dream about her


We had a manx cat
After Penny disappeared
This one stuck around


Chip was my brother’s
A yellow rat in a cage
Who peed everywhere


My folks got Sophie
After I left for college
She liked my dad most


My housemate Michael
Adopted his ex’s cat
When she moved away


For a few fall months
We fed tuna to a stray
But then he was gone


An old girlfriend’s cats
Mostly hid under the couch
After I moved in


We thought we’d lost her
In the fire but she came back
Smelling like cocoa


We came home to find
A kitten on the back porch
So we let her in


By Rick Moody


Trouble, a black lab;
Was never any trouble.
Mostly, she just slept.


Dick Tracy was the
Origin of my turtle’s
name. You could do worse.


My mother ended
Up doing all the feeding
of the guinea pig.


The coon cat fell ill
Not long after we got her.
Cancer, and so fast.


Our next cat became
Pregnant three times in one year.
The kittens were cute.


An English setter
Who was struck by a taxi
And never improved.


…were the parakeets
Who learned to imitate my
Grad school typewriter.


The ashes of one
Gray cat remain uninterred
In a friend’s attic.


Clement Moody of
Exeter, NH, shared a
Name with my dad’s dog.


You’re a nearby ghost,
You’re a specter underfoot,
You’re lost and not found.


A cat who is a
Fish who is a figment of
A former ocean.


By Hazel Jane Moody


Radish is my cat.
He loves me very much.
I miss him a lot.


Featured image of Owen Ashworth © Jeff Marini.

Rick Moody is the author of six novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and a volume of essays, On Celestial Music. His most recent publication is Hotels of North America, a novel. With Kid Millions of Oneida, he recently released the album The Unspeakable Practices (Joyful Noise recordings). More from this author →